An artichoke custard… and hard simple wants

On an exhausted late evening, I browse through Pinterest,
and look at streamlined, minimalistic interiors, unencumbered kitchens. I pin.
I look around me at the piles of things to deal with on my desk. Piles of
things to deal with in my head.

I fantasize about life on a farm. Going back to nature. Back
to a simpler life.

Simpler, meaning what? More real. More beautiful and joyful. Less busy, more focused. All that and more. A tall, but worthy order.

Why is it so difficult to achieve simplicity?

It occurs to me that there’s nothing easy about it. It’s a different
kind of hard. Rather, it is our convoluted lives that seem very easy to slip into. But
they create so much waste, don’t they? Details, fears, attempts to control, to
predict, to please.

So what does the desire for simplicity mean to me, exactly? I know
I have been attracted to the idea of going back to the basics. Back to real
& simple things, foods, emotions, relationships. We want to go back. So did we start out this way? Have
our convoluted lives led us astray from what really matters?

What is

it that I
want, when I tell myself I want simplicity? Here’s what I came up with so far.

I want clarity. About what matters in life, what life
is really about, about my needs, wants, how to fulfill them. My regrets, sorrows, how
to process them.

I want

essential things to be in the forefront of my
life
. It is very frustrating to feel like we know what is essential in our
life, and yet not be able to devote it enough time, while other menial,
unessential things take up most of our time.

I want to favor the experiential over the material. I
would rather tour the world than own a house. I would rather do than have. I’ll
take a great meal over a pair of shoes any day.

I want to be grounded. Or rather find balance, of mind and
body. Of self and the world. Of head and ground. I breathe, therefore I
think. 

I want to let go of a lot of things I can’t control, of
unanswered questions. Lay them to rest. For now. The power to unburden myself.

I want to be a fusion, of past, present and future.

Wow. Now that I think, and write of it, I guess simplicity is
pretty freakin’ complex.

It takes some qualities I sometimes lack.

Patience and
trust
. With and in ourselves, our processes.

Courage. To go outside of our
comfort zone, to let go of easy for the sake of beauty, to face Pandora’s
Box which sorting through and simplifying may unleash.

Inner strength. To keep
standing free.

I’m getting better at all that, mostly. I guess these qualities need
to be practiced, honed.

It’s a great conundrum. The simultaneous realization of the equally crucial
need to achieve simplicity and to grasp human complexity, as two sides of one coin. The
key to living a life that I may look back on with a warm heart, when I’m an old
woman. To living a day that I may look back on with a warm heart, the following day.

Maybe that’s it.

To live each day so I
may look back on it with a warm heart the following day.
That’s simple enough. I can do that.

So I wanted to tell you about that day with the crème
d’artichaud
.
The artichoke custard. A simple dish, of artichoke and eggs. Yet so delightful.

The artichoke is actually a nice metaphor for that day. It’s
beautiful. Simple and complex. You boil it. You peel all its leaves, some of
them prickly, some of them soft. You get to the bottom, and its furry cocoon. You
get past that, and you have it. The essence of artichoke that makes it all worth
it.

This was a morning where I could forget my office and
enjoy the kitchen. Our friend D was coming for the day; she’s my favorite
recipe guinea pig. She quite enjoys the job too. Our days with her are sun-kissed,
full of play, laughter, silliness, dance, dog play and mud play, cooking and
eating, expensive cheese and cheap wine.

There was beauty in that day, of
souls, of carefree joy, of meaningful connection between generations and beings.
Later, I got weighed down by worries, a bit impatient, a bit irritated. I
acknowledged it, it helped a little. I took some comfort in the help and
support of loved ones, in feeling sad when I needed to. Sadness is grounding. It’s
experiencing loss in the moment.

In the end, simple togetherness was the bottom
of that artichoke of a day.

So food metaphors aside, simplicity is hard. It’s
a work in progress. My desk and counters are still cluttered. It often feels
like my life is too. And I’m not too fond of sorting through. But no matter.
Because that day, I look back on with a warm heart.

And I wish you many of those
days, with or sans artic

Artichoke custards

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager, by Valérie Lhomme

Makes 4-5 individual ramekins

Prep time: 20 mn
Cook time: 50 mn

Age for babies: 10-12 months because of whole milk and whole egg.

*Vegetable custards are a GREAT way to introduce new vegetable and herb flavors to children, they’re easy to eat and creamy. Check out my savory herb custard here.

4 large artichokes
1 3/4 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of piment d’Espelette (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wash the artichokes under cool running water, cut the stem at the edge of the leaves. Put them in boiling water and let simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Drain the artichokes and let them cool enough to be able to take out all the leaves and the fur, and be left with the 4 bottoms.

(Keep the leaves as a great appetizer, dipped in a shallot vinaigrette, as described here.)

Preheat the oven at 350°F. Place a deep baking pan (large enough to contain the ramekins, use two if needed) filled with hot water (this is the water bath).

Over medium heat, bring the milk to a near boil. Place the artichoke bottoms and hot milk in a blender and puree until smooth (it will be very liquidy). Pour in a large bowl (with a spout if you have one).

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the whole egg, adding a pinch of salt, of piment d’Espelette and nutmeg.

Add the egg mixture to the artichoke/milk mixture and whisk together. Taste and add salt to taste.

Pour the custard into each ramekin, and place the ramekins in the water bath in the oven. (The water level should be halfway up the ramekin or a bit more).

Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Great served at room temperature or slightly warm.

We served with a pea shoot & mâche salad with an orange juice dressing (1 tbsp OJ, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp mustard, 5 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp walnut oil, salt and pepper).

Simple grape tarte recipe

Today I made a very simple tarte starring grape as its main ingredient. The cake is just fruit in a shell, but works beautifully and tastefully. I would think is a great way of getting picky eaters to eat fruit. I am not a picky eater, but like it a lot! And BF already had 2 slices…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb flour
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 3-4 tbsp water
  • 2-3 cups grape
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1-2 spoons sugar

Directions

  1. First I prepared the dough for the cake. I simply mixed the flour with the water, the olive oil and a pinch of salt, just because a pinch of salt makes everything better. I mixed until smooth and then I rolled out the dough in a thin round. I placed the dough in an oven dish lined with parchment paper.
  2. I then washed the grape and placed it on the dough. I sprinkled the sugar on top and placed the cake in a 385F oven for about 1 hour. The grape will release a bit of liquid, so wait until the cake cools down so that the liquid can solidify a bit making cake eating much easier.
  3. Perfect cake for breakfast, dessert or afternoon break. Fruity, light and simple.You can serve it with Chantilly or ice cream to make it a bit more decadent.
.

Simple spicy pasta

Recently I have received a sample of all products from Ariosto seasoning. Ariosto is an Italian brand which produces different kind of seasonings.  As most Italians I was familiar with those for roasted potatoes, grilled fish and roasted meat, but I didn’t really know the ones for pasta. I tried the chili peppers and garlic seasoning and I was hooked. It was spicy and delicious. I made pasta 2 days in a row using it.

The seasoning is so good, that it is enough to pair it with good oil and well cooked pasta to have a winning meal. And this pasta above I made for lunch in the time needed to take a shower. Of course you can do your own mix of spices and reproduce the mix using chili powder and garlic and salt, but it’s going to be hard.

I know I’m sounding like a commercial, but although they send me the free samples, they are not paying me and these opinions are my own. If you are curious to try the product, you can find it online here and in specialty stores, particularly on the East Coast. For more info check out their website.

Simple spicy pasta

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. pasta
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 tsp garlic and chili peppers Ariosto seasoning
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. When the pasta is cooked drain it in a colander. Place the tomatoes, capers and seasoning in the hot pot. Mix in the pasta and add enough oil to coat it.
  3. Is going to be spicy and delicious both hot or cold.

Simple lime cake

And the Recipe Swap is back!! And we are back to the big Sunday group! I am so excited!!! Thanks Christianna for bringing this back! And we are baking cake! And as soon as I saw the cake I knew what I wanted to bake.

Keeping with the spirit of the recipe is a simple cake with citrus. I used limes instead of lemons and I used oil instead of butter. And then I soaked the cake in lime juice. As my mom used to do. Only in that case she soaked it with orange juice and I have no idea how the batter was made. Almost surely not with olive oil. But the spirit of this cake is the same.

The result is a deliciously moist cake with a great citrusy flavor and just a hint of olive oil taste. I loved it! And it would be perfect for breakfast or coffee!

Remember to check out what every one else did for the swap at the bottom of the post!

Simple lime cake

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz. flour
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 oz. sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 limes

Directions

  1. Beat the eggs on high speed adding oil slowly as you would do to make mayo. Keep adding the oil slowly until it is completely absorbed by the egg compost.
  2. Add the sugar and the salt and beat again until incorporated.
  3. Add the lime zest and the flour and mix well. Finally add the baking powder and finish mixing.
  4. Pour in a buttered mold and bake in a 375F oven until golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes.
  5. Squeeze the lime and add sugar and water to taste. Warm up so that the sugar dissolves.
  6. When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven. Pierce the cake all over and pour the lime juice over the cake without unmolding.
  7. Let the cake cool down and absorb the juice. Unmold and serve.

Celebration and a simple pasta with zucchini and chili garlic oil

I will share a very simple pasta. Quick to make, delicious and very light: pasta with zucchini and chili garlic oil.

Celebration and a pasta with zucchini and chili garlic oil…

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. pasta (cellentani)
  • 2-6 baby zucchini
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • chili flakes (as much or as little as you want)
  • salt

Directions

  1. Boil water. Season it with salt. Add the pasta.
  2. When the pasta (about is almost cooked, add the thinly sliced zucchini to the water and finish cooking.
  3. Meanwhile brown the whole garlic clove and chili flakes in the olive oil. Discard the garlic.
  4. Drain the pasta and the zucchini and season with the chili garlic oil.
  5. Serve warm.